Many local historians have heard of the McGlinchy brothers, James and Patrick, who were famous in the brewery business in Portland in the 1800s. We’ll talk more about them next week as we continue to look at the brewery that was once located on Highland Avenue, but I wanted to start with introducing John Bradley, the lesser-known of the local brewers.

This image of an 1871 F.W. Beers & Co. atlas shows the location of the brewery on Highland Avenue, as well as the Bradley home at the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street. Highland Avenue runs left to right, starting at the lower left. The site of John Bradley’s brickyard is also shown. South Portland Historical Society image

John Bradley was born in Ireland on Nov. 26, 1815, and immigrated to the United States in 1841, landing in New York. He became a naturalized citizen in 1853.

On May 6, 1847, Bradley married Margaret McGlinchy in Portland. While we believe Margaret to be the sister of James and Patrick, which would make John Bradley their brother-in-law, we are still working to prove the familial tie (if anyone reading this has any documentation showing the relationship of Margaret to Patrick and James, please give us a call or email).

On Nov. 5, 1858, John Bradley, Patrick McGlinchy and James McGlinchy purchased the brewery building on a one-acre lot of land on the corner of Highland Avenue and Ocean Street (known then as Barren Hill Road and Ocean House Road) for $6,500. The property had been owned by Hiram Gibbs and John Robinson who had come up from the Boston area, purchased the land in September, 1857, and built a brewery upon it.

Bradley and the McGlinchys were aided by Hiram Gibbs, who helped to finance the purchase by paying in $1,625 and becoming a quarter partner in the business/property. They officially established Forest City Brewery on Nov. 8, 1858, hiring an experienced master brewer from Albany, New York, to get them started.

Gibbs was only involved for a short time, while they got the brewery up and running. He sold his quarter interest in the property to Bradley and the McGlinchys for $2,000 in April, 1859.

In February, 1860, James and Patrick McGlinchy left the business to open up their own separate brewery in Portland: Casco Brewery. They sold their shares in the Cape Elizabeth property to John Bradley, leaving Bradley as the sole owner of Forest City Brewery. For many years, locals referred to Forest City Brewery as “Bradley’s brewery.”

John Bradley was also a part-owner of a large building in Portland at 17 York St., on the corner of York and Maple (the address was later renumbered as 51-53 York St., where you’d find Portland Pie Co. today]. The building had shops on the first floor, along the street, with apartments in the upper part of the building. The Bradleys lived in one of the apartments and the office of

Advertisement that appeared in the Eastern Argus in 1859 South Portland Historical Society image

Forest City Brewery was maintained there, as well. While alcohol was stored at 17 York St., the brewing took place in Cape Elizabeth. The brewery in Cape Elizabeth became so famous that the stretch of Barren Hill Road that ran from Ocean Street to Cottage Road was renamed Brewery Road [(the road is now named Highland Avenue), and the intersection of Highland and Ocean was once called “Brewery Corner.”

In May of 1863, a fire broke out in the basement of the building at 17 York St. Not long thereafter, John and Margaret Bradley moved to South Portland (called Cape Elizabeth back then). They lived in a residential home on the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street (known as Summer Street and Ocean House Road back then). The house and lot were later sold to Lloyd W. Jordan, who built a Shell gas station on the site. The property is now home to Pizza Joint.

Running a brewery in Maine in the mid-1800s was a bold line of work. Maine was the home of prohibition. We had prohibition laws enacted here as early as 1846. The “Maine Law” of 1851, and other variations of prohibition laws passed after that, prohibited the sale of alcohol, but the law did not prohibit the manufacture of it. So, with the claim that they were brewing ale for sale to out-of-state customers, there was nothing to stop people like John Bradley and the McGlinchys. There are numerous news articles through the 1860s related to search and seizure of alcohol from John Bradley and his Forest City Brewery. The usual defense was that no alcohol was being sold in Maine.

Advertisement that appeared in the Eastern Argus in 1861. South Portland Historical Society image

An article that appeared in the Portland Daily Press on Jan. 28, 1869, related to a case brought by the state against John Bradley, charging him with the illegal manufacture of malt liquors. In this case, Bradley chose to take a different defense – that his “ale” was not actually an intoxicating beverage, therefore not prohibited. The article provides a good look at the business at that time: “The defendant keeps a large brewery in Cape Elizabeth; paid $100 a year for a United States license; employs a large capital and many workmen; gets off a brewing sometimes once a week, sometimes twice, and from 28 to 30 barrels of ale, using about 50 bushels of malt and from 65 to 100 pounds of hops at a brewing. The barley, of which the malt is made, increases in bulk about 20 percent, in passing from grain to malt. Syrup is used with the malt. Employees upon the stand swore that they drank from one to two gallons a day, drank it free as water, without injury to their health and without intoxication.”

John Bradley operated Forest City Brewery as a sole proprietor from 1860 to 1870. In the spring of 1870, he sold the property to James McLaughlin, Robert B. Henry and John Harrison.

Although he sold the brewery in 1870, Bradley continued to be listed in the Portland Directories through 1873 with the occupation of brewer at 17 York St. in Portland; whether he was brewing at 17 York St. or simply dealing/trading in alcohol is unclear.

In the Portland Daily Press on Aug. 22, 1870, an announcement was made that “Mr. John Bradley is about erecting a brick store on the corner of Maple and York streets, 25 feet front and 50 feet deep.” Back on Jan. 14, 1865, Bradley had purchased the large four-acre lot just to the east of the brewery in Cape Elizabeth. It appears that rather than purchasing bricks, he utilized his land along Brewery Road as a site for the manufacture of bricks.

By the mid-1870s, he appears as retired, still living in the house on the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street. He did appear to have a brief stint as a saloon operator in his retired years, as he is listed as the proprietor of a saloon at 51 York St. in the 1882 Hull’s Directory. John Bradley died on March 6, 1888.

If you have information, artifacts or historic photographs to share, please reach out to the South Portland Historical Society. You can reach us by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106, by phone at 207-767-7299, by email at [email protected], or through our Facebook page. The society’s Online Museum can be found at

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society.

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